Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement

Covenant of Liberty: The Ideological Origins of the Tea Party Movement

by Michael Patrick Leahy

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Today's Tea Party activists are motivated by the same ideological desires as our nation's Founding Fathers, argues Michael Patrick Leahy in this illuminating work of political history.

Today's political class—in both parties and at all levels of government—shows a blatant disregard for both the letter and spirit of the U.S. Constitution. More and more Americans are fed up, and from this sweeping sense of discontent and anger the Tea Party movement has emerged, revitalizing the spirit of constitutionalist activism in the conservative world.

According to author and Tea Party activist Michael Patrick Leahy, a similar lack of accountability ignited our nation's Founding Fathers, and they were motivated by the same ideological desires: to constitutionally limit government, ensure fiscal responsibility, and defend individual liberty. These imperatives were at the heart of what he calls a "covenant of liberty," which undergirds our written Constitution. Leahy traces these ideas to the libertarian traditions of the English Civil War. He explains why they were on the minds of Americans at the birth of the republic, and how they passed down largely intact from generation to generation, were broken by a corrupted political class, and have been rediscovered by the modern Tea Party movement.

According to Leahy, the American constitutional covenant consists of four unwritten promises that most citizens continue to regard as crucial to our government's legitimacy. The story of how this covenant evolved and how its fundamental promises were broken forms the core of this unique and original work of political history.

As Leahy shows, the first promise—to abide by the written words of the Constitution—was broken before the ink was dry on the nation's founding documents. The second—to refrain from interfering in private economic matters—was broken by the Republican Party in the 1860s. The third—to honor the customs, traditions, and principles that made up the "fiscal constitution"—was broken by Herbert Hoover 143 years after the establishment of our republic, a sad rupture conducted on an even grander scale by his successors, beginning with Franklin Roosevelt and continuing through the administration of Barack Obama.

The breaking of these promises greatly accelerated the natural tendency of governments to centralize and consolidate power at the expense of individual liberty. Had not the fourth and final promise—that members of the legislative branch would exercise thoughtful deliberation while giving respectful consideration to the views of their constituents—been broken in such a disdainful and audacious manner in early 2009, the grassroots activists who came to make up the Tea Party would never have been impelled to take action.

Drawing on his personal experience as the organizer of the online conservative community that launched the Tea Party movement in February 2009, Leahy documents how the timeless principles of American constitutionalism have been used to grow one of the most active and influential movements in American history.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062066350
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 03/20/2012
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 325,886
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Michael Patrick Leahy is an innovative leader in both the tactics and strategy of grassroots conservative new-media activism. As cofounder of Top Conservatives on Twitter, Leahy helped to form the Nationwide Tea Party Coalition. With a BA from Harvard and an MBA from Stanford, he has more than two decades of private-sector experience in technology and communications. He is the author of several books, including Rules for Conservative Radicals. He lives in Tennessee.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Four Broken Promises: Why the Tea Party Arose 1

Chapter 1 The English Roots of American Liberty 7

Chapter 2 American Constitutionalism and the Formation of the Secular Covenant 35

Chapter 3 Alexander Hamilton and the Broken Promise of Plain Meaning 59

Chapter 4 The Republican Party and the Broken Promise of Free Markets 91

Chapter 5 Woodrow Wilson and the Divine Right of the State 117

Chapter 6 Republicans Fail to Offer an Alternative 141

Chapter 7 Hoover, FDR, and the Broken Promise of the Fiscal Constitution 155

Chapter 8 FDR's Assault on Free Markets and the Constitution 181

Chapter 9 LBJ, Richard Nixon, and the Final Destruction of the Three Promises 201

Chapter 10 The Broken Promise of Deliberative Accountability and the Rise of the Tea Party Movement 217

Chapter 11 Restoring the Secular Covenant: A Tea Party America Based on the Constitution 245

Acknowledgments 265

Endnotes 267

Index 287

What People are Saying About This

Randy E. Barnett

An elegantly written and clear-eyed portrait of the centuries-long struggle to constitutionally protect individual liberty from a governing class who would, in the name of of the “public interest,” harness the power of the state for private gain.

Michael Barone

In Covenant of Liberty, tea party leader Michael Patrick Leahy shows how the tea partiers have reinjected the ideas and principles of the Founding Fathers into political discourse—and the revolutionary effect they have had.”

Richard E. Wagner

Concise, illuminating history...Leahy explains how the modern Tea Party offers a path to recapture the liberties that our constitutional republic was founded to secure.

Ambassador John Bolton

No political movement in recent memory has had the immediate impact of the Tea Party. Leahy lucidly explains both the historical and philosophical roots of the Tea Party, providing a useful guide both to his contemporaries and to future historians.

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